NFL Week 2: Minshew Madness

Welcome back! Last week’s play fell incredibly flat as the Raiders had their way with the Broncos for the entire night. The Raiders offensive line, which was missing two starters, allowed zero QB hits. Big money free agent acquisition Juwan James went down early and the right side of the Broncos offensive line never really recovered after that. On the other side of the ball, stud cornerback Bryce Callahan (2018 PFF grade of 81.3) also went out early and the Raiders intelligently went after Isaac Yiadom after that, who received a PFF grade of 41.3 for the night. To cap off the ugly night, Vic Fangio showed poor game management skills in his head coaching debut – the lowlight being opting to kick a field goal when down 21-6 to decrease the deficit from a two touchdown game to a two touchdown game. Nevertheless, Week 1 is behind us and we are on to Week 2.

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) vs. Houston Texans (0-1)

Both of these AFC South teams will face off after having quite an eventful Week 1. The visiting Jaguars come off of a blowout at home in which Nick Foles exited with a season-ending broken clavicle. The Texans on the other hand watched a late-game comeback slip through their fingers as they lost in the final moments of the early Monday Night Football game. This week is a pivotal week for many 0-1 teams, as teams starting 0-2 only make the playoffs roughly 11% of the time. Add in the fact that all four AFC South teams face off against each other this week, this week has a lot at stake.

The glaring element to this game is the undrafted rookie quarterback who will now start in place of Nick Foles, Gardner Minshew. After taking over for Foles,  Minshew went on to finish 22/25 (88%) for 275 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT. To add to his performance, the three incompletions were drops and Minshew wound up finishing fourth in attempted Air Yards amongst all quarterbacks. Not bad at all if you ask me.

But when it comes to replacement quarterbacks, it’s not necessarily about how good the replacment is – it’s more about how much more valuable the starter was compared to the backup. Luckily for us, BetOnline actually released the effect each quarterback has on the line:

 

Now obviously different books might have different numbers for each quarterback but I can’t imagine it differing by too much. If Foles is worth 2.5 points, then the current spread of Texans -9.5 for this game suggests that it would have been around Texans -7 had Foles finished last week’s game unscathed. To me, that immediately didn’t sound right. Prior to Week 1, the Pinnacle regular season win total for the Texans was approximately 8.6 and the Jaguars’ was 7.9. A difference of 0.7 wins would never equate to a spread of -7 in Week 2 had Foles been healthy. And that’s absolutely true. When we look at what the lookahead line for Week 2 was before Week 1, you can see that the Texans were originally -3.5. That means that after adjusting for the quarterback change, there is 3.5 points of unexplained movement left. For many, that alone would be enough to take a line and not think twice about it. But that wouldn’t make for a good write-up so let’s dive a bit deeper.

Outside of the quarterback situation, the two biggest takeaways from the two games these teams played last week are that 1) The Jaguars defense looked apprehensible, allowing the Chiefs to score 40 points and that 2) the Texans passing game looks better than ever with the offensive line getting a boost from Tunsil and with Will Fuller back. However, long-time NFL bettors will tell you that overreacting week-to-week is a good way to deplete your bankroll, especially at the start of the season.

To put the Jaguars’ poor defensive performance in context, I took a look at every time the Jaguars allowed 21+ points in the past two seasons (left column) and how they fared in the following week (right column):

2017 W2 Titans 37

2017 W4: Jets 23 (in OT)

2017 W6: Rams 27

2017 W12: Cardinals 27

2017 W14: Seahawks 24

2017 W16: 49ers 44

2018 W5: Chiefs 30

2018 W6: Cowboys 40

2018 W12: Bills 24

2018 W14: Titans 30

2017 W3: Ravens 7

2017 W5: Steelers 9

2017 W7: Colts 0

2017 W13: Colts 10

2017 W15: Texans 7

2017 W17: Titans 15

2018 W6: Cowboys 40

2018 W7: Texans 7

2018 W13: Colts 0

2018 W15: Redskins 16

As you can see, the Jaguars’ defense only allowed 21+ in consecutive weeks once in the last two seasons: in Week 6 of last season when they allowed 40 points to the Cowboys after allowing 30 to the Chiefs in Week 5. In the ten weeks following a game in which the Jaguars allowed 21+ points, they only allowed 11.1 points per game. Logically, this makes a lot of sense when you think of the ebb and flow of week-to-week game-planning. If the Jaguars’ defense plays well, opposing coaches will avoid what the Jaguars defended well and try to find where they were lacking. The Jaguars’ coaches on the other hand will be a bit more content with their defense and try not to change too much. That leaves the Jaguars defense exposed. If the Jaguars’ defense plays poorly, opposing coaches will look to exploit the weaknesses the Jaguars already showed whereas the Jaguars’ coaches will look to patch up those holes. This will give the Jaguars’ defense the advantage.

But if you’re unconvinced and have the Texans’ recent offensive performance still fresh in your mind, you might want to pump the brakes. The Saints defense ranked dead last in DVOA allowed on deep passes last year. The Jaguars, on the other hand, ranked seventh best. Yes the Jaguars did just get burned deep by Mahomes, but like we just discussed you would be hard-pressed to find instances where the Jaguars had consecutive weeks of defensive lapses.

As for the model, the Jaguars are given a 38.6% chance of winning on a neutral field and after adjusting for game-specific factors the Jaguars are made to be 5.8 point underdogs. I’ll sell a half point and opt for JAX +9 -110, which leaves us with 3.2 points of disagreement making this a play risking 1.76 units to win 1.60.

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